Pistons’ Isiah Thomas Denies Reports About Gambling Probe
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ Basketball star Isiah Thomas on Saturday angrily denied reports that he ran high-stakes craps games in his home and was the target of a federal gambling investigation.
Thomas, selected Thursday as most valuable player of the NBA Finals, met with reporters following news reports that said he was being investigated by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.
″I’m mad and I’m angry,″ Thomas told The Associated Press at his lawyers’ offices. ″I don’t even know how this happened. I think (Detroit fans) all know the kind of person I am. No one has given me anything in this world. Everything I’ve gotten out of this world, I’ve worked for.″
The Detroit Pistons guard acknowledged he has made small, casual bets, such as on whether he could sink a long basketball shot.
His lawyer, John Caponigro, issued a statement saying that during Thomas’ nine years in Detroit, he ″on three or four social occasions has been involved in impromptu dice games.″
But, the statement continued: ″In none of these games would his wagers be considered ‘high stakes.’ He has never been involved in any way with basketball wagering, or any other form of illegal sports gambling.″
Thomas, accompanied by lawyers, his accountant and Pistons officials, said in the interview, ″I don’t believe you should gamble. I think gambling is one of the stupidest things you can do. You always lose.″
He said he had met with FBI agents to explain his relationship with other alleged targets of the probe.
″They informed me that I wasn’t a target of their investigation and the only reason they were talking to me was because this story broke,″ he said.
John Anthony, FBI spokesman in Detroit, refused to comment.
Thomas said he called the FBI early Saturday after arriving home to find his wife, Lynn, ″standing in front of the TV set crying.″
WJBK-TV on Friday and the Detroit Free Press and Oakland Press on Saturday quoted unidentified sources as saying a grand jury had subpoenaed checks totaling at least $100,000 that Thomas cashed at a friend’s grocery store.
Thomas and the friend, Imad Denha, ran craps games worth thousands of dollars at unspecified times at their Oakland County homes, the sources said.
Thomas, however, said he gets a monthly allowance from his accountants, and that Denha cashed the checks, $2,000 to $3,000 each, at his grocery store. Thomas said the checks, bearing his signature, surfaced during a regular audit of the store and that they had not paid gambling debts.
According to the unidentified sources quoted in the reports, authorities have linked Denha to a reputed bookmaker who is the central figure in the gambling probe. Those reports said Denha is a suspected money launderer.
No one has been charged.
Reached earlier, Pistons General Manager Jack McCloskey denied the reports. He said he had spoken with Thomas and the FBI, and added, ″You don’t have to worry about that; there’s not going to be a probe.″